Posts in Integrated Communications

Marketing planning for 2021

Top five marketing resources to power your 2021 growth plans

November 18th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, CMO, Digital marketing, engagement, Growth, Integrated Communications, Marketing Strategy, Social media, social media marketing, storytelling 0 comments on “Top five marketing resources to power your 2021 growth plans”

What you will require for success in the new year

Unprecedented complexity in marketing channels, platforms and media priorities can subtract from the confidence and clarity you need about where to make the best strategic investments. The potential for engagement misfires (wrong message, wrong channel) is at an all-time high and it seems as though every other day a new media platform rises to claim its narrow territory in an ever more fractured communications landscape.

  • You need a clear path and navigation chart to inform your decisions on where to invest precious marketing assets next year – when every dollar needs to perform like 10 and there’s not a lot of room to recover from mistakes.

We aim to provide specific guidance here.

Fortunately, the marketing game plan priorities are making themselves known. Today we have the benefit of hindsight to examine what tools performed to greatest effect in this uncommon year, and we also have a grip on where to place the marketing plan bets headed into 2021.

Here’s the most dramatic piece of evolutionary perspective unfolding for next year: what’s old is renewed again. I am personally ecstatic to see this change arrive. Read on.

I came up at Ogilvy & Mather (O&M), the first 11 years of my career bathed in the ample light of how David Ogilvy and his immensely talented colleagues saw the marketing universe. While David was a renowned and talented ad copywriter, he was first a business builder, problem solver with a remarkable grasp on the levers of how to grow a client company. He was indeed a holistic thinker.

David was forever espousing a point of view that we aren’t on the planet just to make advertising or PR. We’re here first to:

  • understand the challenges of business categories,
  • help incubate innovative product solutions,
  • understand the delicate emotional characteristics of brands,
  • navigate the cultural issues that impact company behavior,
  • and, inform and educate that most mysterious creature known as the consumer (“who is not a moron but rather your husband or wife,” says Ogilvy).

Said another way, a more myopic view would have us believing it’s all about the ad or PR creative product. Thus your proverbial marketing hammer comes back repeatedly to the same tactical nail. If that were true, our value as counselors, guides and business experts would deteriorate overnight and the agency business would be diluted to churning out cinematic representations of feature and benefit stories. Or the lesser digital display ad?!

Instead, we are tasked with being strategic guides who make our client’s business and category a deep and comprehensive ongoing study involving the mechanics of:

  • product creation and
  • market influences and
  • economic conditions and
  • cultural shifts and
  • competitive challenges and
  • the endless study of consumer and organizational behavior.

In short we are devoted to strategic investigations and assessments ahead of any conversation about a creative idea, in part for the very reason that all of that analysis nourishes enlightenment and leads to more relevant and powerful marketing ideas. The kind that make communications all the more effective at turning the screw of share and volume growth.

  • What’s the definition of a big idea? One that you can immediately and intuitively see how it will impact and change company behavior and the dynamics of the marketplace in which it competes. That’s a compelling adventure to join and why I appreciated what I learned while at O&M. Big ideas tend to bubble up in the midst of strategic business conversations.

However, with the growth of digital everything, over time the marketing guidance task largely contracted into a tactical role of managing the digital platform du jour and erstwhile electronic flag waving. In recent years the consultive forms of agency and client relationship have diluted in favor of operating a digital marketing automation dashboard. Execution driven assignments more so than operating within an authentic marketing partnership.

Well, all of that is about to change in 2021.

We’re entering an era where the importance of strategy and branding has re-emerged as the decisive lynchpin in priority and design of nearly every go-to-market plan. Why? The toolbox game has fallen in on itself under the sheer weight of so many options competing for eyeballs at a time when consumers are tiring of the relentless barrage. People are tuning out entirely the self-serving, self-reverential bullhorn of marketing message social channels. They reflexively reject that interruption right out of the gate.

The Pandemic has also lowered the tolerance boom on brand self-promotion – while rewarding efforts by enlightened brands that closely align themselves with higher purpose values and drive deeper meaning into their brand story and behavior.

What worked and what’s coming next year

A recent national survey of agencies conducted by SharpSpring revealed universally the most effective outreach tool deployed in 2020 was paid social. Not a surprise given the importance people place on social conversation, the levels of engagement there (which also correlates with the consumer’s prevailing interest in dialogue) and hearing the experiences of others to inform their purchase decisions.

Looking ahead at next year, this same study drilled down to what is likely to be in demand by clients in the year ahead, which also bears remarkable similarity to what clients are prepared to outsource to their agencies.

The re-emergence of strategy and branding as a top priority activates to assure marketing investment decisions will, indeed, deliver on their engagement objectives. This helps to measurably influence purchase decisions at a time when the consumer’s view of what matters is rapidly evolving.

Taste, price and convenience used to drive food and beverage purchases. Now those triggers are overtaken by a host of new more issue-like considerations such as health and wellness, transparency, purpose and values, supply chain integrity, sustainability and food safety.

  • Add to this an emerging concern about climate change and the impact of our current food production system on greenhouse gas (GHG) levels – meat production is by far the largest single contributor followed by agriculture. The food system creates more GHG than all of the global transportation systems (cars, trains, airplanes, etc.) combined.

We are seeing a rise in consumer demand for change addressing their concern to know what the carbon footprint is of the foods we consume. More on this topic to come from us.

Meantime, the verdict is in on resources to receive the most attention and likely investment in 2021 while brands continue to grapple with the impact of the pandemic on preferences, shopping and purchase behavior.

The top five marketing needs for 2021

  • Marketing strategy: this begins with insight into consumer behavior and cultural shifts taking place that impact what people care about, and what they expect of the brands that matter to them. Active participation on issues like climate change will be one of them.
  • Branding: the role of higher purpose and deeper meaning are now critical to your business and brand voice. This is not a “nice to have” but a core strategic platform to secure relevance and engagement at a time when people expect brands to participate in making our world a better place.
  • Social media management: social media is a top priority and has remained so for some time now. How brands engage here, support community growth and encourage user generated content, will play a critical role in trust creation. Trust is a top objective and this channel is part of the solution. It’s remarkable that at one time the idea of actually talking directly to a brand’s consumer was virtually unheard of. When it finally arrived many brands looked upon it skeptically as a scary and potentially treacherous and uncontrollable development. My, how times have changed.
  • PR and reputation management: trust is the currency of any brand relationship. It is a requirement. Now harder to earn and maintain, the scrutiny and filters being applied by consumers seeks to determine whether a brand’s activism is messaging masquerading as champion of a cause – or is it real where the brand behavior matches the rhetoric. A recent IBM study on purpose reports that when consumers think a brand has a strong and authentic purpose, they are 4.1 times more likely to trust the company.
  • Digital advertising and re-targeting: a strong and verifiable correlation exists between awareness and velocity performance at retail. The more present and top of mind your brand is, the more likely this recognition will convert to a sale, assuming other considerations on purpose, values and trust are properly aligned. People live online. That bit of behavior enhanced by shelter in place and work or school from home conditions is why digital channels are having a heyday.

Brand activism on the rise      

An important strategic focus in 2021 will be where your brand sits on the fence of increased calls for activism on societal issues. Generation Z, the most woke generation of all, is decidedly focused on this and will be voicing their sentiments in the purchases they make. Their wallet is their vote and symbolic flag to those around them about what they consider to be important.

  • A recent study from Zeno Group found that for brands of comparable quality and pricing, 91% of consumers will switch if one of those brands supports an important cause. That might as well be 100%.

Here’s another way to look at it:

The more activist a brand is, the more earned media attention it’s likely to secure. This leads to greater visibility and brand awareness in trusted media channels – which in turn will help drive recognition leading to higher sales outcomes. All of this is happening in a media model that is derived at lower cost (compared to traditional media) thus helping wring more benefit out of tight budget resources.

The key is how real the brand’s activism is vs. an attempt to “message” around it without the anchoring back-up of verifiable brand behavior. Fake activism is discoverable and can (will) backfire.

If a conversation on 2021 planning priorities would be helpful to your decision making, we would welcome the conversation. Use this link and let’s start a conversation.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Creative agency services

Time to test drive fresh thinking?

November 5th, 2020 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand strategy, branded content, CMO, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Digital marketing, Emergent Column, Emerging brands, Integrated Communications, Public Relations, Retail brand building, storytelling 0 comments on “Time to test drive fresh thinking?”

So much has changed during the last few months.

Like many we talk to you might be wondering:

  • “Does my current marketing plan still hold up given everything?”
  • “Am I missing something here that could be the difference-maker?”
  • “I’d love to get some fresh eyes on this, but where?”

Every brand in the food, beverage and lifestyle space is going to encounter barriers to growth and unforeseen disconnects in brand communication.

We are focused entirely on helping you leap over these impediments and challenges. We do this by applying our unique ability to weave innovative strategic guidance together with insight driven communications.

The result is transformational acceleration of your business results.

We know it’s difficult to let someone new in the door before fully trusting the players involved. That’s why we’re happy to take on projects that serve as a commitment-free test drive of our work.

You might need fresh thinking on:

  • Transformational strategic guidance and brand refresh
  • Building a compelling messaging platform to optimize your brand storytelling
  • Creating optimal social channel content and credible earned media attention
  • Producing the ultimate video-based story to differentiate your brand and business

Let us know if you are open to a conversation about your next win. We can bring a fresh perspective to a challenging problem or address a specific new product or category creation need.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Substance overtakes stunts

Substance Over Stunt: The new era of marketing

October 7th, 2020 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, brand messaging, brand strategy, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Growth, Higher Purpose, Insight, Integrated Communications, Social media, storytelling 0 comments on “Substance Over Stunt: The new era of marketing”

Help not hype defines the path to engagement victory

In 2008 Johnsonville Sausage famously conducted the classic publicity stunt of outsized proportions, building a giant grill on north Michigan Avenue in Chicago, with plans to drop an equally giant brat (from a crane) on the grill to celebrate the official start of BBQ season. I saw it, my office was two blocks away. Does this qualify as different? Yes. Was it super-sized in hopes of adding drama? Yes. Was the intention to create the requisite “Buzz” in the media? Yes.

Did it fulfill its objective? I think not. Media were critical rather than faithful reporters of the intended message. The stunt was a less effective vehicle for the very reason people were increasingly interested in substance over spectacle. The event was in some ways a marker of the end of the stunt as a path to PR glory, and perhaps a harbinger of change as consumer and media interest in the more blatant forms of brand self-promotion was shifting. Aside from a few mishaps on delivery drop of said brat to grill, it was inevitably a shameless publicity maneuver.

A moment of honest reflection: during the golden era of stunt strategy, we leveraged a summertime event called Molson Chiller Beach Party in Miami for client Molson Beer. We put 10 tons of snow on Miami Beach in July, positioning a TV satellite truck on the sand to capture images of what appeared to be a snow descending on Miami Beach. Video scenes of men and women making snowmen and snow angels on the beach were edited in real time for a package we titled Freak Snowstorm in Miami. Satellited to TV stations around the country, the video story aired in more than 100 markets that day.

The real goal, though, wasn’t just simple brand awareness. We were creating a compelling, powerful story for beer distributors to demonstrate that the Molson brand was relevant and resonant in a market far from their core volume territory in nine cities close to the Canadian border. Our video drama added to the sales team presentation securing a larger Molson share and investment in their import beer programs. That was then. Now, the path to consumer engagement has changed.

Substance overtakes hoopla

The world of effective marketing has advanced. People have changed, which demands that marketing best practices advance with them. At one time, how brands typically engaged with consumers was focused on interruption, hyperbole, entertainment, assertions and at times, crazy stunts in a belief that any publicity was good publicity. Buzz was seen as a component of hype, driven often by some form of outrageous display.

Marketing that works effectively is more successful now when it coalesces on authentic help for the consumer over media hype. People lead busy and complex lives. What they need is guidance, help, advice, coaching, training, ideas, support and empowerment. Your brand’s relevance to them is connected to how you become a useful and valued partner on their life journey.

If this sounds like a more mature form of relationship, I think you would be right. We have evolved and improved in that respect – more thoughtful and interested in overcoming our problems and challenges than being influenced by headlines falling from ‘the largest, biggest, tallest______________.”

Utility = valuable-ness

Real engagement is a form of acknowledged partnership. People grant you their precious and valuable attention in return for something that makes them better. This quid pro quo is an exchange founded in reciprocity and constructed on help or community-building that satisfies our inner need to tell the world around us what we stand for, what we care how about, what our values and beliefs say about us.

A brand that has trimmed its audience definition and scope to a narrower segment of true, committed fans has a shot at mattering. This approach works because in most product categories that escape the debilitating rust of commodity sold on price, a majority of the sales and profit is delivered by a smaller cohort of engaged enthusiasts. Some examples:

  • Kitchen commanders
  • Pet lifestyle buffs
  • Outdoor adventure seekers
  • Health and wellness advocates
  • Exercise aficionados
  • Fashionistas

You get the idea. Call them geeks or fans or ambassadors, the unifying characteristic is their innate interest in and devotion to these lifestyle associations. Your goal is to get close, real close to who they are and what they care about. Your ability to walk in their shoes and operate in service of their interests is the grist for content marketing that works.

Your brand voice is optimized when you separate the help from hype, the social proof from brand assertion, earnest helpful guidance from brand self-promotion. Only then, can your brand be perceived as and appreciated for contributing in real ways to the consumer’s journey. Think about it:  what is media hype but a disposable form of awareness with no shelf life. It’s there and then gone. What has been achieved? A moment of ‘I saw you’?

  • Your desire for buzz or recognition or mention is better served by enabling and contributing to the things your best users care about.

Perhaps the most famous stunt of all time was the Stratos Jump by Red Bull when Felix Baumgartner launched himself from a helium balloon 124,000 feet above earth, televised to more than 8 million viewers many of whom might remember the stunt – but not the advertiser or product. Was the reported $65 million cost worth it? If you’re selling a product that tastes like melted gummy bears to an adventure-seeking consumer, maybe.

For the rest of us, meeting the heart and mind of your customer in authentic ways that contributes measurably to their quality of life is another form of ‘adventure’ – but decidedly more relevant and valued than simple awareness.

If you find yourself asking questions about how to build buzz, we can help you answer that objective with insight and ideas that connect at a human level. Use this link and let’s start a helpful and hype-free conversation.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Think Beyond: Lessons in Disruption from Beyond Meat

November 18th, 2019 Posted by Brand preference, brand strategy, change, CMO, Consumer insight, Emerging brands, Emotional relevance, Growth, Healthy lifestyle, Integrated Communications 0 comments on “Think Beyond: Lessons in Disruption from Beyond Meat”

Guidance on how to hit the food brand home run

Poised to create and capture the next wave in center-of-plate meal preferences, Beyond Meat is scaling at break-neck speed in both grocery and foodservice channels, throwing off sparks of insight to all emerging food brands who will listen about the new path to relevance and glory.

At Chicago’s recent Good Food Financing conference produced by the venerable Jim Slama of Family Farmed and Good Food Accelerator, keynote speaker Seth Goldman held the audience of embryonic food brand founders and equity investment executives in rapt attention while delivering a data driven highlights reel of business home run after home run. The score sheet demonstrated in dramatic fashion how Beyond Meat’s team is leading the nascent meatless meat invasion, while disrupting conventions and traditions of the legacy animal-based proteins industry.

Within Goldman’s engaging recap of refrigerated beef patty without the beef, was a significant revelation to all of the strategic leaps Beyond Meat achieved. “Animals are really four-legged bio-processors of plant materials, converting the ingredients to meat,” he said. Thus, meat in truth actually comes from plants, and Beyond has amazingly reverse engineered the components of meat structure to imitate and recreate the same bite and flavor characteristics of the animal variety.

Said Goldman: “Our goal is to enable consumers to eat what they love.” Right there was respect for what consumers want, and a vault from making vegetarian meat for vegetarians to making plant-based meat for meat lovers. The foundations of this strategic narrative are critical and inform how the entire Beyond story unfolded. Within his story is a living example of what separates ‘just another one’ from a meaningful innovation that influences consumer behavior and informs the future of food.

It worked because this plant-based juggernaut fully delivered on its promise to replicate the animal meat taste and texture eating experience. “Traditional veggie burgers look to us like a plot by the meat industry to make sure plant-based versions aren’t a threat because, let’s face it, they don’t taste very good – and I’m a vegetarian,” Goldman reports.

Meanwhile the plant-based category table is set for dinner:

Trend lines seem clear that plant-based anything is on the way up, as consumers “flex” their preferences and look for what they believe are healthier alternatives that are friendlier to the environment but which also deliver fully on taste experiences consumers crave.

According to IPSOS, 54 percent of consumers say they’re trying to consume fewer animal-based foods and eat more plant-based options. What’s going on here? Shifting values mixed with health and wellness is what’s going on. SPIN Scan data reveals that refrigerated plant-based meat is up 37 percent year on year to $212 million in sales.

No surprise, it is outpacing animal meat sales. Within the $270 billion US meat category, plant-based share is under 1 percent. The upside is significant and bodes well for Beyond as first mover and brand perception leader in the space.

Mintel’s 2018 “Better for you Eating Trends” study provides evidence of why it’s best to strike when the macro trends are working in your favor. In their national survey, Mintel found across all four primary age segments, consumers said they agree with the following statements:

  • Plant-based protein is healthy – yes for 74 to 80%
  • Plant-based foods are better for the environment – yes for 47 to 63%
  • Plant-based functional claims are trustworthy – yes for 35 to 56%
  • Plant based foods are better for you than animal options – yes for 42 to 50%

Dollar sales for plant-based meat in the aggregate, frozen or fresh, is $801 million and rising rapidly.

By the way, this form of market-opportunity-assessment matters for the business plan!

Emergent Guidance on the Path to Victory

Surveying the adjacent exhibit hall of new, emerging food and beverage brands, Beyond stood as the “A” lister in a field of hopefuls who bare their heart and soul daily in product concepts that authentically align with higher quality, more artisanal and healthier food solutions now fueling the renaissance in Good Food. The acid test, however, is can they redefine the categories they’re playing in or will they plateau among a collection of similar offerings with similar stories and similar preparations.

The secrets to outsized success continue to follow six repeating themes:

  1. Think Differently Going In

It would have been logical and expected for Beyond – founded by Ethan Brown, a vegetarian – to exist in service of that ethos and segment, working to create a better product for this devoted marketplace. But the mental leap to create a product for meat lovers caused the entire R&D development process to rally around a specific standard of performance and outcome with a moonshot at a VERY big market. Vegetarians are roughly 5% of the population and have remained anchored at that level for some time.

The goal to build an analog to meat inspired the revolution unfolding before us.

  1. Disrupt the Space You’re Entering

Beyond Meat defied the conventions and expectations of its veg foundation, opting to swing for the meat department case fence. Beyond could have easily been a frozen product in the vegetarian section freezer case. Instead they pushed and cajoled retailers to merchandize their products alongside animal meat, and in doing so, not only accentuate the perception that this was a legit option to a beef product, but also meet the meat shoppers where they shop.

Entrepreneurs would be well advised to look for extreme disruption, major departures, unconventional solutions, big moves on the perception chess board that constitute uniqueness.

Legacy food brands often suffer from a recurring illness we refer to as line extension-itis. Read as, adjustments, incremental improvements to an existing idea that don’t ultimately reframe the category.

Relatively minor improvements to ingredient strategies, recipes, preparation techniques or story may not be enough to inspire the kind of attention and magic that leads to new category creation, the zenith of best-in-class marketing opportunity.

  1. Focus on Taste Satisfaction

Formulation can be a fickle friend. While hitting benchmarks on nutritional label improvements and better-for-you metrics, taste sometimes gets marginalized. I will never forget my first bite of a Beyond Burger at the Chicago Restaurant Show, in a backwater booth buried in the better for you zone, where curiosity got me up to the table. And then – Holy Cow – I swore it was a ‘burger burger,’ not a veggie burger. Relentless search of optimal marriage between culinary and taste considerations with healthier is paramount. Taste wins every time.

  1. Place the Right Bets

Most people believe that plant-based anything is healthier, but Beyond wisely did not elect to make nutritionals a predominant part of their go-to-market game plan. For the simple reason, that pound for pound a Beyond Burger isn’t necessarily a traditional nutrition label winner. Yes there’s no cholesterol, but…

Instead Beyond wisely pursued a values-based messaging platform weighed against the environmental tax exacted by raising animals who compete for natural resources. Beyond Meat tells us their product creation process (compared to animals) consumes or produces:

79% less water

93% less land

90% fewer greenhouse gases

46% less energy

  1. Tell Your Story, everywhere your customer or stakeholder can be found

If Seth isn’t a walking, talking personification of this point, I don’t know what is. Goldman the Ambassador of Beyond is everywhere, bringing the remarkable news of the company’s outsized performance to any and all who will listen.

These business and media audiences are chocked full of content creators and reporting types like me who turn around and do what I’m doing here.

We extol emerging brand companies — be careful not to  short sheet the brand building process early on. Yes, cash is at a premium and yes, resources are limited, but the “if we build it they will come” mentality is a recipe for small ball. All marketing is strategic storytelling. You have to invest here and sooner rather than later.

It takes experienced hands to shape and inform the consumer-ready brand story efficiently and with great impact – thus, why Emergent exists. We’re good at this, but then again, we’ve been doing it to great effect across multiple categories and honed our communications techniques and strategies.

  1. Relentlessly Innovate

Goldman will tell you the Beyond Burger today is different, and better, than the Beyond product was when they first got traction. He claims the company has 70 scientists at their Manhattan Project campus in California, working around the clock to improve their taste, recipe and nutritionals – and to innovate new products like the recent Dunkin ‘Beyond Sausage Sandwich’ for the hand-held breakfast crowd. Don’t rest on your laurels, don’t stop working to make it better and to search for the next meaningful adjacency where the product concept can go to solve yet another problem or capture another market opportunity.

Be careful, however, to avoid extending your brand in areas too far afield of your core equity where the proposition dilutes rather than builds on what consumers believe is your expertise.

While the barriers to entry have fallen away for emerging food and beverage ideas, and yes everyone knows it won’t be easy, there are key ingredients in here that spell the difference from modest growth to something that looks like Beyond Meat.

Our Offer…

So we make this offer: let us come in and conduct an audit, no cost, of your current platform, product concept, supply chain, and business opportunities. We’ll provide an assessment and make some recommendations and if you agree, perhaps we can partner on a future path to business transformation.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Let me know.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Part 2: Orchestrating the new 360-degree brand building solution

November 16th, 2017 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, CMO, Digital marketing, Integrated Communications, Marketing Strategy, Public Relations, Transformation 0 comments on “Part 2: Orchestrating the new 360-degree brand building solution”

How integrated communications planning operates

Marketing is no longer a department. Every aspect of how an organization collectively sees itself, thinks and behaves impacts their ability to get and retain customers. As consumers gained control in their relationship with brands, and cultural shifts placed more importance on brand integrity, transparency and beliefs, a new marketing model has evolved with it.

Now, a more holistic and comprehensive approach to business growth and development is required. In today’s consumer-driven climate, an organization’s higher purpose matters at least as much as the quality and benefits of the product itself. The entire ecosystem of business strategy to brand communication and experience must be optimized for relevance and resonance to consumer interests and needs.

Moreover, placing the consumer at the center of business strategy means that every aspect of how the company operates, creates products, sources its ingredients, behaves in the marketplace, and communicates, must be adjusted to align with how consumers’ lives can be improved through relevant brand touchpoints.

In this article we detail the eight elements of effective planning and communication in the age of consumer control. Together these ingredients form the recipe for brand-to-consumer engagement, conversation and mattering.

1. Business analysis linked to higher purpose guidance

We have entered a new era where company behaviors, as well as the DNA and creation of the product itself, is more directly impacting business growth outcomes. As a result, the client and agency team must collaborate to help guide business strategy, considering that all aspects of how a company operates will inform marketing results. Marketing and Communications simply cannot be isolated from the rest of the business plan – or brought in later to “ice the cake.”

The marketing ecosystem partners must be able to evaluate and bring context to operations, product creation and innovation, brand strategy, consumer insight and relevance. Equally important is providing strategic guidance on establishing the company’s mission and higher purpose. It is higher purpose – a real human-relevant mission that goes above and beyond the commercial intent of commerce – that becomes the blueprint to direct all aspects of business and go-to-market planning.

2. Importance of insight research and message testing

How can you possibly expect to support consumer aspirations if you haven’t peeled the onion to get as close to customer lifestyles as possible – and we’re not talking just about purchase behaviors. What’s going on in your core users’ lives? What do they want, care about, or dream of? How do you answer the call to deep understanding of what they value? How do you know what will resonate unless you pressure test the various ways to present a brand’s bona fides in relation to your customers’ specific needs?

3. Multi-channel outreach strategies

Mass media is gone. The ability to aggregate eyeballs went with it. Communication today is more narrowly focused on engagement in smaller communities where consumers participate, typically online or via experiential. So now, the portfolio of communications tactics must build from a seamless integration of medium and message in social, content, earned and paid, dialed into platforms and communities where potential fans and ambassadors reside.

It’s here where we find one of the strongest cases for higher purpose strategy. To the extent a brand is able to marry itself to a consumer passion point and become an enabler of it, the door opens to defining where the brand can participate and contribute in relevant ways. This is what Clif Bar® brand does as a focused supporter of outdoor adventure sports enthusiasts, or what Bosch home appliances does to inspire and enable culinary passions of home chefs.

4. The fundamental aspects of emotion and meaningfulness

Analytical, fact-based outreach is not respectful of the human condition. We are emotion-based beings and respond accordingly. There’s more intrinsic power in emotional forms of connection than will ever exist in messaging that’s a rational recap of data, facts and figures.

The human brain isn’t wired for this kind of disciplined analysis outside of the classroom. People care about their relationships, values, meaning, purpose and beliefs. Want to build a closer rapport with consumers? Then imbue your brand with greater meaning for your customer, beyond the product itself.

Video, by definition, is an emotionally-evocative medium. Stories of personal experience and transformation can be powerful in reaching people’s hearts – where the action really is.

It probably bears mentioning here that purchases are actually symbolic gestures – a demonstration telegraphing what purchasers want the world to believe about them and their values. So, aligning the brand with cultural cues for consumers to gravitate to is mission critical.

5. The importance of disruption and differentiation

“Similar” and “familiar” are two words that consumers typically use to define the competitive set in most product categories. The messaging around a product’s technical distinctions are often comparable from one brand to another; reflecting the sameness in formulas, recipes and ingredient decks. Packaging formats are often similar among competitors, as is messaging.

In many cases you can exchange brand names between competitors at the shelf and the stories are relatively interchangeable. Pet foods are a textbook example of sameness in how brands present themselves and their nutritional story.

Uniqueness often requires disruption (challenger brand thinking) of category norms and accepted traditions. Doing the unexpected and purposefully violating category conventions are vital to standing out. With so many voices vying for attention, different truly matters. Ownable distinctions remain the Holy Grail – especially in commodity businesses. Increasingly important are consumer- and culturally-relevant cues speaking to their desires for authenticity, company standards and real food ingredients.

  • We helped a client of ours, Schuman Cheese, create the first and only trust mark in their category, a seal that independently verifies product authenticity and integrity. (Research confirms that honesty and truth count towards brand preference).

6. The power of social proof

The voice of the satisfied user is the most powerful form of marketing. Building and investing in communities of brand/product fans is a precursor to facilitating their engagement, reviews and endorsements. Their voices are far more credible than anything a brand can construct on its own.

Helping consumers tell their stories and share their experiences is the most important path to cultivating word of mouth, a form of user-generated communication that breathes truth because it comes from the hearts and mind of people without profit motive.

Far too often, we find brands engaged in social channels with self-promotional content. Social is first about conversation and second about sharing. Content that is intrinsically valuable and useful to the brand fan community is vital to securing their attention. Creating the opportunities for fans to build and share their own content is integral to creating the proof of benefit brand stewards covet.

7. Relevance is the precursor to engagement

Understanding core consumer wants, wishes, dreams and concerns will direct the creative inspiration needed to build branded content that is worthy of consumer consumption. People care about their own lives and interests first. Brands that become a reflecting pool of the users’ interests and desires put themselves in a position to earn their attention, trust and even loyalty.

Far too many marketing campaigns are self-reverential, self-promotional efforts designed to present product features, benefits and technology achievements. While this information will always remain of note, it cannot be the first consideration in how stories are constructed.

Yeti® brand builds video stories of adventures and experiences with real people who fish and hunt. Is it focused on their cooling tech? No. It’s focused on the users and their stories. This less transactional, less selfish form of outreach is the path to creating lasting relationships.

Brands are built now on the basis of their ability to gain trust. And trust, at its core, is founded on providing lifestyle help rather than product hype. When looking for brand recommendations, people believe friends and family first as we fundamentally think they have our best interests at heart, and will be honest. Companies that respect this more empathetic form of relationship building will prevail in the marketplace – because they are able to earn and retain trust.

8. The most under-leveraged marketing asset of all: employees

Marketing is often so pre-occupied with product packaging, presentation and in-market support aimed at the end consumer, that another equally important stakeholder audience gets the back seat. Or in some cases, no seat.

Employees are one of the most import assets a brand can deploy in the marketplace. Their passion and enthusiasm underneath an organization’s mission and higher purpose can be an essential building block of belief.

How an organization views this audience – as a partner or a cost to be managed – will impact marketplace performance. If you equip employees with the brand’s tellable tale and provide opportunities for them to engage people beyond the office walls, you’re able to leverage a dedicated, enthusiastic and credible population of ambassadors.

Bring them into social channel platforms as content co-creators. Provide the tools, resources and training to tell stories that underscore the company’s commitment to higher standards, integrity, assurances of quality and the lengths the organization will go to hear and be responsive to users.

Integration forms the backbone for brand success!

Each of these steps and tools form the basis of integrated thinking – from aligning business strategy to higher purpose, to building consumer relevance in every aspect of brand communication – delivering a 360-degree, holistic answer to real integrated marketing.

This method respects the need to bring symmetry and synergy to all areas of company operations, behaviors and communication in service of the consumer. When this happens, trust breaks out because the consumer is, indeed, at the center of the company’s effort and the conversation.

Ironically, this approach will create improved business results, more so than the typical path of looking at consumers as “targets” for marketing to persuade.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Part 1: Integrated Communications – the New Maestro of Food Marketing

November 14th, 2017 Posted by Agency Services, brand marketing, branded content, CMO, Integrated Communications, Marketing Strategy, Public Relations 0 comments on “Part 1: Integrated Communications – the New Maestro of Food Marketing”

Is PR ready to move from instrument to orchestra leader?

Perhaps the harshest lesson for anyone in food and beverage marketing is the stark realization that persuasion no longer works. Persuasion was a welcome, business-friendly concept because its DNA was founded in brand-built, self-promotional messaging: here’s our product and why you should buy it.

Cultural shifts and behavior changes have transformed the shape of effective marketing from “talking at” consumers to “helping guide.” Consumers now rule the relationship – thus forcing changes in today’s marketing best practices and the service mix provided by agency partners.

Consumer shifts demand integrated communication solutions

When I first started in the agency business, public relations was primarily the sum of its media relations parts. Editorial media placement defined the marketing PR discipline, springing from its press agent roots in the post World War II rise of global agency companies. As the consumer packaged goods industry grew so did public relations. Its value exemplified in the context of cultivating third party, credible advocacy by a journalistic media source – one that was perceived to be unbiased and thus believable.

  • The marketing PR theory at work then: people in all demographic segments would consume media in print and broadcast forms to engage in the content – news or entertainment – while ads revolve around the perimeter searching (again and again) for attention. Getting your product talked about in the well of content was the ultimate in “intrusive” message delivery; wearing the aura of independent, reportorial endorsement. Controlled message and frequency were never in the equation like advertising, however, extended and cost-effective reach lived within its core proposition.

Mass media lived well with mass communication strategies.

Ogilvy (I was there for 11 years), in an effort to gain greater effective traction on behalf of its consumer branded clients, built an integrated proposition called Ogilvy Orchestration. It was an effort to bring symmetry and alignment between ad, PR, promotion and direct marketing services. While the concept had merit, its execution occasionally misfired due to competition between the various operating companies jockeying for the pole position of strategic client leadership. It was an early form of integrated thinking, yet, more about creating synergy among agency disciplines than a concept built to optimize and leverage consumer behavioral insight on the client’s behalf.

Digital changed the world: the old model lost traction, and a new one arrived

Let’s start by staking a claim: integrated communications – built around consumer lifestyle relevance – is the path forward for effective brand communication.

The consumer, for the most part, is in charge of how, when and where they engage in any and all brand messaging and hence, are in control of the relationships they choose to have with brands. Hence the tools deployed might blend earned media in the form of publicity, or branded content, or social channel conversation, or influencer engagement, or improved forms of advertising built around help over hype.

There’s an old adage, if the only thing you sell is a hammer then the answer to every problem is a nail.

So true. The Internet has facilitated consumer control over media channels and consumption. So there is easy avoidance of anything that walks and talks like traditional marketing. This condition ushered in a new marketing paradigm and tool kit – a decidedly less transactional model founded in relevance to consumer lifestyle interests, passions, needs and concerns.

Along with it, the current digital media eco-system literally demands a more conversational, straightforward and authentic form of communication. I would argue that PR brains are well suited to this task given the history of focus on editorial sensibility around “educating” versus the conventional solution leaning into cinematic salesmanship.

Today, brands must become partner, coach and guide to their audience as an enabler of their lifestyle goals. It is in this method of marketing reciprocity that more meaningful relationships between brand and consumer can be formed. It begs and answers the strategic question: in what ways can the brand improve the customer’s life?

At Emergent, we appreciate the shift to mattering and deeper meaning, rather than singularly advancing product features and benefits. The mattering construct requires businesses to fully operate in the customer’s best interests – which historically was a core principle that sat underneath the value proposition of public relations.

Implications to the planning model and agency

We believe integrated communication is a fundamental requirement for effective marketing strategy. Agencies that understand and can execute this fully will remain a vital and valuable resource to clients.

That said, it requires some modifications in operating behavior from the typical PR model of fielding tactical teams of publicists and creators of editorially-sensible material.

Integrated communications involves assembling an orchestra of expertise: part management consultants, part behavioral research experts, part brand strategy planners, part creative and producers of relevant content in a variety of media forms.

So, for clients and agencies looking to leverage integrated communications in earnest, the talent mandate must answer the call for integrated thinking. Inevitably, this will redefine the skill set requirements for firms who expect to provide the highest levels of value to their clients.

Integrated thinking informs integrated plans, which leads to successful integrated execution.

In Part 2 we’ll take a closer look at the elements of the new integrated marketing tool kit.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Archives

Categories